Money is a necessary evil and an evil it is. I am not referring to greed. Literary history and present-day books are overloaded on that subject. My thoughts today are about the agony it imposes on the have-not and have-some-but-maybe-not-enough population. I met someone yesterday who told me he has enough income and savings that he could never outlive his money, prompting my obsession today over where I must have gone wrong.
I am so tired of thinking about money, obsessing over how to preserve, spend, hoard, share, enjoy and hide it. Some people with means flaunt it, and those without live in a panicky state in the present with fear for the future. In the middle are people who earn it and then constantly worry about losing it, second-guessing choices in the past and standing at the crossroads of paths to move toward. Angst about saving more while cajoling adult children to do the same seeps through with each purchase made and bill paid. With every decision, I am reminded that money rules.
My parents grew up in the Great Depression, and though I never experienced that level of poverty, the worry gene seems to have been passed down to me, clearly. It’s like a fever I can’t shake, fighting not to succumb to the burdensome omnipresence of money’s power. This phobia of being without (there must be a name for it) experienced by the haves, have-nots and in between, is interwoven into our society, impacting every decision every single day. It’s not the type of thing where you can opt out.
Then there’s the guilt of having money when others do not, especially at this time of year when charities increase their visibility; the apprehension with tax season looming ahead; the frustration when salary increases get wiped out with hikes in utility bills and other necessities; and the anger when food companies reduce package sizes for the same price or more. But people who are in a position to say they will never outlive their money don’t worry about that. They don’t look at prices before they buy, dine and travel. They look pitifully on those who do. They cause you to question the choices you have made and to dwell on your vulnerability.
Some people live off the grid in an effort to reduce their dependence on infrastructure. In the same way, maybe the solution is to deflate the power of money by not equating it with happiness and success. It would be better to expend more effort to value and cherish the non-monetary joys of life, finding strength in life’s offerings that are more precious than money such as harmony at home, nourishing relationships, kindness and tolerance, and creative expression. In the end, I may not be rich, but my hope is that when people spend time with me, they leave feeling richer.
Have a warm holiday followed by a new year with a fresh start and positive perspective.